On Being the Shrink

I don’t talk about my job very much. As a therapist, I have to keep everything that happens in session confidential. When most people have a bad day at the office, they can vent about it to their spouse or friends. When I have a bad day at work, I have to keep it to myself.

Today I had a poignant conversation with another therapist about some stuff that I obviously can’t discuss. But the gist of it is, sometimes it can be really discouraging to see how damaging parents can be to their children. It astounds me how profound a traumatic childhood can shape a person’s life. Even more disheartening is how the small things can impact us. A distracted, perfectionistic, critical or addicted parent . . . even in a seemingly happy household, kids can sustain damage that follows them into adulthood.

Sometimes, though, the trauma is so far-reaching that a person’s hard-wiring is changed. Such a person may struggle for the rest of their lives with depression, or anxiety, or addiction, or self-loathing, or thoughts of ending their life. They may be attracted to people who continue to hurt them in ways that are familiar. And no matter how much work we do in therapy, this faulty hard-wiring is very difficult to change. As a beginning therapist, I used to think that anyone could change. That with enough counsel, anyone can gain insight that will lead to behavior change, that would lead to a kinder, happier life. After years of experience, now I’m not so sure. Coming to that realization, as a therapist, is kind of like losing your religion. Most of us go into the field of pyschology out of a deep need to help others. It’s hard when we are not able to do that. It’s hard to watch people struggle. Somtimes it’s hard to listen to pain, and join in that pain, in the midst of my own brokeness.
Most of the time, I like being a therapist. I have seen many people find freedom through counseling. But sometimes, that doesn’t happen. Those days are discouraging. Today was one of those days.